US President Donald Trump renewed his calls to set up a travel ban on mostly Muslim countries during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Despite criticism, he has little reason to not move forward with it: Washington is dealing with numerous legal disputes related to the executive order, the latest in a long line.
It’s causing consternation for many tech companies that rely on the countries singled out. On Sunday, Amazon.com Inc. signed on as one of just four list companies that committed to providing legal support and providing additional financial resources to help the government in its fight. Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. did not go quite that far, and didn’t answer our request for information about this information, though Facebook does provide information on and from each of its employees and how often they travel.
It comes at a time when President Trump was acting, on Twitter, as he did earlier this year, that the internet industry doesn’t love him, or support him, with tweets suggesting technology industry executives are helping him do all these things (the “Google tax”, for example) which would benefit Google’s subsidiary, Alphabet Inc.
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Trump made similar comments about China.
I just finished a 12 hour visit to Singapore, China, and Japan. The fact that we are even talking about a Trump tax is a sign of so much anger & frustration! — Donald J. Trump () January 16, 2018
The Washington Post reported Monday that tech companies plan to lobby Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress to pass a bill mandating greater government transparency regarding the way government contractors award contracts. An official from the Department of Commerce told the Post that these companies have the right to represent their interests in private negotiations, but that the government has the obligation to protect and uphold the law.
If there’s a corporate identity worth paying attention to more than other corporate identities, it’s Amazon’s. Even during his early days as a presidential candidate, Trump lambasted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for failing to say, “thank you” for giving Bezos the country’s richest person title, after he bought the Washington Post in 2013.
The Financial Times also reported last year that four members of Congress, including US Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), have contacted Amazon directly seeking to get the company to increase payments to the US Postal Service. The USPS receives $5.7 billion annually from Amazon, the Financial Times reports. Amazon gets preferential treatment from the USPS, and Amazon’s U.S. sites are registered in the name of Amazon affiliates, whose customers (most notably Amazon Prime subscribers) buy products through those sites but don’t end up paying USPS on the purchase. In return, Amazon receives low postage costs.
Another example of online-based businesses enjoying favorable terms from the USPS. (Twitter’s arrangement, which has since changed, remains).
Trump and Amazon have also often traded on criticizing the fact that the company owes $3 billion to the US Department of the Treasury for underpaying income taxes in the years Amazon started to grow.
The Amazon case isn’t over; there’s now a lawsuit over the company’s international presence that the company filed last year. Amazon employs 1.3 million people, but an auditing report for the second quarter of 2018 shows that the company’s international holdings accounted for $3.09 billion of $20.1 billion in sales. If the government finds Amazon underpayment of income taxes to be true, as some experts believe, Amazon could owe the government quite a bit more money.